Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Prostitution propositions

I don't believe in evil for the most part. The acts of murder and rape can be products of a damaged or desperate mind, responding in a horribly wrong way to the world they are experiencing. Sex-trafficking on the other hand, is the one thing that makes me spitting mad. It is hard to discount the word evil when describing a man who takes women and girls from their families and friends promising them a better life, only to brutally sell their bodies for his own personal gain.

With that in mind you would think I would welcome the government initiative to make it illegal to pay for sex with someone who is being controlled and is a prostitute against their will. Unfortunately, I believe anything which drives prostitution further into the shadows – and that is where the clients will want it to go if they think they're playing russian roulette with a hefty fine or rape charge – will make prostitution more dangerous for all the woman who find themselves involved in it. I believe it is right that anyone who pays for sex with someone they know to have been trafficked should face a rape charge, for that is exactly what they are doing. Not knowing the mindset of someone who pays for sex, I can only speculate that this might be an incentive not to ask any questions and just get in and out without any chit-chat. It is of course quite possible that this is what clients do anyway, and perhaps an explanation of why they need to pay for sex in the first place.

So how do we tackle the problem then?

Please be advised that the section of text below is in massive writing not because I believe it requires extra emphasis but that I didn't know how to fix it (sorry)

It is clear to me that you cannot tackle the issue of prostitution without tackling drug abuse. The statistics I could find suggest that 75-80% of prostitutes are addicted to drugs. A serious drug addiction makes it nigh impossible to hold down a job, so a £50 a day habit needs to be supported by prostitution or crime. I say needs, but if you could get the drug locally for free at a government sanctioned “shooting gallery” then there would be no “need” and somewhere near three quarters of prostitutes would have no reason to sell their bodies for cash.

(and relax)

Drug users are not necessarily bad people. They are just people who were sad, bored or ignorant at one point in their lives, made a really bad decision and found themselves imprisoned in an addiction to which their was no means of escape. No community is going to want a “shooting gallery” in their midst, until you explain the benefits that is. In Widnes, where there was an experimental heroin prescription policy, the local Marks and Spencer's was so delighted by the 90% drop in shoplifting that they donated £5000 to the project.

Read a remarkable article on the Widnes project here:

Okay, so now that you've quartered the prostituting population, what to do about trafficking? Looking at the situation from a cold, practical perspective, if prescribing heroin to existing addicts quarters the supply of prostitutes for their paying clients, how is demand going to be met? Would trafficking even increase to fill the gap with exploited, non-addicted girls and women from overseas? I don't know the answer to this, but I feel the key to ensuring this doesn't happen is to establish a difference between “good”, tolerated providers of prostitutes and those who are controlled by pimps and traffickers.

I suspect the only way to draw a solid line between the two groups is to introduce some sort of licensing arrangement whereby government can lay down the guidelines for what would be an acceptable organisation providing sex for sale. My own instincts on this would be that support staff should be voluntary or be on flat-rate pay without commission and that they should be entirely female and that social work and police – again female – should have full access to records, accounts, and interviews with the women employed. Once any such system is established, it would then be acceptable to me to have severe punishments for clients using unlicensed providers of prostitution.

Where prostitutes are identified who are being controlled, we should be looking to rehouse these women or girls out of the area in which their pimp operates - with friends and colleagues if necessary - in return for information leading to arrests. If women are concerned that grassing would put them in danger then it is our responsibility to make sure that all resources are made available to ensure that they can be reassured.

I believe this latest government initiative is yet another example of tinkering around at the edges of policy in the fear that there would be a public backlash against the sensible solution. It is the governments duty to do what is right for its people, not what is popular. If a proposal is unpopular, then it is the governments duty to explain as best they can why the proposal would work for the benefit of all (except pimps and traffickers, although surely they would be happier doing something else with their lives. They are still human aren't they? I'm not quite sure.)


Jon said...

I broadly agree that it's worth a shot, but I'm not sure I'd call it the obvious solution. What you describe sounds somewhat similar to Amsterdam strategies. It's difficult to be too clear of the effect of the licensed sex industry in Holland (ask different people, you get different answers), but certainly many feel it opens up more problems than it solves.$1228263.htm

The reason the same isn't introduced here may be partly because governments are generally elected to do what the people want. If they don't, the people are likely to ask someone else to do it.

Ewan the liberal beardy said...

If it were up to me there would be no Amsterdam red light district type areas. It would be extremely undesirable to have any drugs and sex tourism as a result of the changes I propose. Rather, I would prefer contact details for agencies or brothels to be on an available "licensed service provider" list, and there to be no obvious advertisements to the ordinary passer-by. My knowledge of what happens in Amsterdam is very limited and your link doesn't work. :(

Its_grim_up_north said...

I also agree that drugs should not be illegal (for a start they would then be very uncool) but they shouldn't be free at point of issue.
It would have to be decriminalised in all countries at the same time. Otherwise you would have the Amsterdam issue and the costs would be prohibitive. Decriminalise it in all countries, the price would drop and then the basic prescription charge could be applied.

Ewan the liberal beardy said...

The positive aspect of free provision to addicts is that it entirely medicalises heroin addiction. Glamour is entirely removed from the equation. The drug would only be available to British citizens who would have been assessed by a doctor before entering the programme so that heroin addiction could be diagnosed. I think this would prevent drug tourism. There would be no market for dealers, so very few new users. More info at /news/uk/crime/heroin-the-solution -480734.html
I think undercutting dealers by making it free is very important. Perhaps the users could be employed in community service around the safe consumption rooms if you want them to have to "earn" the heroin. This might also help with placating objections in the local community.

Jon said...

The link still seems to work. Your computer is broke.

I don't think sex tourism relies on adverts, just a knowledge that soliciting won't be punished. Broadly, a list is what exists in Amsterdam, with one area allowed to display their wares fairly openly.

Ewan the liberal beardy said...

Er the link doesn't work. Perhaps insert a space after index/ as the rest of the link doesn't fit on the page.

Ewan the liberal beardy said...

On revisiting my blog for the first time in a while, Jon's link does work, and isn't that a lovely bottom? I think a possible solution is to ban anyone who is not a UK resident from using licensed brothels. I'm not sure how easy that would be, but it would be a way of preventing sex tourism and therefore increased trafficking.

Anonymous said...

I must say I disagree entirely about evil: I have met so many bigoted, selfish people who destroy others simply for their own satisfaction that I believe only the term "evil" can describe vast swathes of the population!

But I agree that legalising prostitution would help to protect sex workers from abuse. I had not thought of the sex tourism problem. I had assumed licensed brothels would be discreet! A bit naive of me.